The last few election cycles and my personal run for office have brought me to a realization of why Republicans tend to lose to Democrats here in Illinois and nationally. It is actually very simple, but much harder to correct.
Let’s start by defining policy and politics.
Policy (left brain) – the details oriented fact based solutions to solve an issue, i.e. the legislation itself in most cases.
Politics (right brain) – the art of putting your opponents into box to use their vote or negative talking points against them in the next election, i.e the messaging of an issue.
Republicans and Conservatives are typically much better at policy. They have handled the politics side very badly nationally in the last 2 Presidential elections and in the last state elections here in Illinois. This has led the Democrats to a super majority in both the State House and Senate.
The Democrats on the other hand have been very good at politics, while atrocious on the policy. Obama and David Axelrod have been masters at politics just as Michael Madigan has been a political genius in his maneuverings here in Illinois.
The Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between politics and policy, even after all the mounting losses. Many conservatives understand this distinction even less. This growing political divide is beget by the naiveté they still maintain that people are educated and care about how they are governed. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Voters have become very apathetic and thus not well informed. Add this to the fact that the Main Stream Media has become biased in their reporting and tend to stick to sensationalism and sound bites, the voters truly are low information voters who are easily swayed by politics and ignorant of policy.
To explain the issue better, lets look at a few examples:
Fiscal Cliff: The Democrats and Pres. Obama did a very good job of demonzing the Republicans as not wanting to raise taxes on the rich. The GOP focused on the policiy of why raising taxes on the job creators would hurt the economy. The Democrats easily won the political battle and taxes were raised on the rich, and many not so rich small business owners. In addition, social security taxes were raised 2%, back to their normal level, effectively raising taxes on the middle class as well.
Debt Ceiling: Obama and the Democrats successfully argued that the United States cannot default and will have to pay it’s bills. The GOP focused on the out of control spending. This debate was again won by Obama, even if temporarily with the Obama Sequestration idea. The GOP was scared of the ramifications of not raising the debt ceiling and could not win the spending and debt argument.
The Ryan Budget: This debate was simply, the GOP solving the long term debt issue in a very reasonable approach. The problem though, the Democrats used fearmongering of senior citizens very effectively in telling them the cuts were draconian and would make them starve; or the GOP would throw granny off the cliff. Even though the Democrats argument was not based in reality, they won the debate handily and gave Obama 4 more years in office in the process.
Michael Madigan on Pension Reform and Gun Control: Michael Madigan is doing the same thing here in Illinois. He is putting up test vote after test vote on both gun control and pension reform. His only intention on many of these items, as seen in their wording, is the political use of the votes in the 2014 election cycles and beyond. He is painting the GOP into a corner. If they vote Yes he has a commercial for the General Elction. The GOP has a choice to not play the game and did so this past week by refusing to vote. They just don’t consistently do this as they should.
It appears Madigan’s sole plan on pension reform is to pass his version of reform. However, it will be very bad policy in which the plan will be most likely thrown out by the courts. Madigan wins either way in that he passed reform, it’s just not his fault the courts overturned it. The GOP loses, the state employees lose, the teachers lose and the citizens of Illinois lose. But in the mean time, Michael Madigan helps his daughter Lisa become Governor.
The GOP must learn the art of politics if they expect to ever win a major race in Illinois or the Presidency again. This can be done without compromising our values or delving into lying as many Democrats do. It doesn’t appear the GOP has learned this lesson yet. They are continuing their failed “Cut, Cap, and Balance” rhetoric. That language is policy again and not politics. It is a losing message as shown in the 2012 elections.
A political solution to the of control spending nationally and in our state is “Freeze Spending Now“. The plan is simple, the messaging even simpler. Freeze all discretionary spending until the budget balanced. The debt ceiling can be raised easily since it will only be done for non-discretionary spending like Medicare, Social Security, Interest payments, etc. This takes the threat of draconian cuts out of the Democrats playbook and language. Again, simple and effective messages that anyone can articulate while putting your opponent in the corner of having to argue to increase spending.
Hopefully you can now see the difference between policy and politics. Conservatives and Republicans better understand the difference or they will soon end up in permanent minority status.